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Rabbi to Community: Appreciate America and Tone Down the Criticism!

An Orthodox Rabbi in Chicago exhorts his congregation to tone down criticism of leaders in America. His message reminds us that we are still in exile and should be grateful for G-d's gift to those who live in America and America's kindness to Israel. Part of that appreciation should be to lower the criticism of our leaders.  Such public criticism is counter productive. Read the letter and contemplate the Torah values and common sense this Rabbi wants us to live with.

Dear Chaveirim:
Generally speaking I endeavor to make use of Face book for Torah Shiurim and Hashkafa (Jewish outlook) or Mitzvah communications only. While I do have a personal political viewpoint, I do not believe I have used Facebook to express any political statements in the past. What I wish to share with you now is no different. It is not meant as a political statement of any kind whatsoever.

I beg you to please view this post objectively, relevant to all of us regardless of political affiliation, loyalty, liberal or conservative leanings or any political agenda.

In Hashem's limitless kindliness He has granted us the gift of this, our last, galus (exile) residence in a מלכות של חסד, a host country of kindness. We are, by the laws of the country, free to live Torah observant lives without fear of persecution or harassment. More than that, we derive much benefit from the government by way of protection from discrimination or harm and often even direct financial support to our places of education, shuls and mosdos  (synagogues and institutions) of chessed in one way or another.

For this we owe Hashem, as well as His agent, the Government of The United States, a tremendous debt of gratitude!

But because we have been raised with these kindnesses, coupled with the freedom of free speech, we tend to take these privileges for granted. This is something our parents and grandparents, who were graciously welcomed to these shores, wisely and for many reasons never abused.
Yes it's true, thank G-d, we have the right of free speech. Yes, we have the right to publicly criticize our host government for its failings, real or perceived. But does that mean that we should? And if we do, should it be in any manner or form that we choose? (SERIOUSLY, name calling the president as The **'whatever'** In Chief?! Is that really much different than the shockingly negative, wildly outlandish ((and childish)) pronouncements of the recent marchers in Washington?)

Most importantly we are not sharing our biting criticism to friends at kiddush, rather we do this in a nationwide/worldwide public forum, to anyone who has Face book access, where our profiles clearly project us standing out as (Torah observant) Jews!

Is there any possible scenario where this will bring about a kiddush Shem Shomayim, the sanctification of the Almighty's name?! (a principle purpose of our existence)

Is there any possible scenario where this will enhance for Jews the affinity or respect of our President or the people in his government, who grant us privileges (sometimes extending into legal gray areas) and who insure and defend our rights?!

Is there any possible scenario where this will enhance for Jews the affinity or respect of our gentile neighbors with whom we live side-by-side?!

Is there any possible scenario where this could potentially enhance Ahavas Yisroel in any way? (or c”v cause its opposite!)

And if grievances need to find voice, should we not leave it for our respected sages and leaders, who as the Talmud demonstrates learned from Yaakov Avinu's encounter with evil Esav, how to diplomatically approach the government for the needs of the Jewish people? Should critical expression be open to the (often embarrassing ad hominem) belittlement and degradation of anyone who has a Face book page?
(Rebbi Yehudah Hanasi was once dictating a letter to his student Rav Afes. The letter was going to be sent to Antoninus Caesar – Marcus Aurelius.

When Rebbi was proofreading the letter, he realized that his student had started the letter with the words; “From Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi (the prince) – to the Emperor Antoninus”. Rebbi immediately ripped up the letter. In its place he wrote instead; “From your servant Yehudah to the Emperor Antoninus”.
“Why do you treat your honor so lightly?” asked Rav Afes. Rebbi answered “Am I better than my ancestor Yaakov?! By Yaakov it says ” כה אמר עבדך יעקב” – “so says your servant Yaakov”. I too will refer to myself as a servant when addressing the emperor.
There are numerous sources in Torah and Halacha where we as Jews are charged to be loyal citizens of the lands in which we are dispersed.

For example, the Prophet Yirmiyah, (Jeremiah) in his charge to the Jews who were exiled to Babylonia, wrote:
וְדִרְשׁוּ אֶת-שְׁלוֹם הָעִיר, אֲשֶׁר הִגְלֵיתִי אֶתְכֶם שָׁמָּה, וְהִתְפַּלְלוּ בַעֲדָהּ, אֶל- ה': כִּי בִשְׁלוֹמָהּ, יִהְיֶה לָכֶם שָׁלוֹם. “
Seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be exiled there, and pray to Hashem for it, for in its peace shall you have peace.” (Jeremiah 29:7.)

The Mishna in Pirkei Avos records the famous dictum of Rabbi Chanina, the S'gan HaCohanim (deputy High Priest), who said:
רַבִּי חֲנִינָא סְגַן הַכֹּהֲנִים אוֹמֵר: הֱוֵי מִתְפַּלֵּל בִשְׁלוֹמָהּ שֶׁל מַלְכוּת, שֶׁאִלְמָלֵא מוֹרָאָהּ, אִישׁ אֶת רֵעֵהוּ חַיִּים בְּלָעוֹ.
“Pray for the welfare of the non-Jewish government, since were it not for the fear of the government men would swallow each other alive.” (Avot 3:2 see Rashi's commentary.)

Dear friends, these references are about leaders and governments that were by no stretch of the imagination friends to Yidden or respectful of Torah values and yet . . .

Whatever anyone personally thinks about the personality, talents and abilities of President Trump to effectively (safely, prosperously, etc) govern the United States, I do not believe, and I'm sure you'll agree, that there has ever been a President of The United States that has so unabashedly expressed his sincere desire to benefit the Jewish people in the land of Israel. In addition he has surround himself with advisors (some shomrei shabbos!) and ministers who's perspective's are very much in line to benefit Klal Yisroel in numerous ways!
This is a president who unashamedly proclaimed, at least three times on the day of his inauguration, that protection for and success of our country will come from G-d! Is this the President that (Torah) Yidden want to demean, in any manner? Calling him derogatory names? Publicly – for ALL the world to see!? Depicting him as being ______ (fill in your own blank)?

Will this enhance his desire to benefit Israel or the Jews of the USA?

May I humbly suggest a deep and thoughtful reconsideration of this situation.

As great sages in the past have felt it worthwhile to include a public prayer in our shuls for the welfare of the government, may I suggest that we all, at least silently, no matter what we believe, ask Hashem to give President Donald Trump the lev tahor v'nachon and the clear vision and wisdom to lead the country in a safe, prosperous, productive manner and grant him Divine successful direction, fulfilling the words of Shlomo Hamelech in Mishlei (21:1):  לֶב-מֶלֶךְ, בְּיַד-ה'; עַל-כָּל-אֲשֶׁר יַחְפֹּץ יַטֶּנּוּ.

The king's heart is in the hand of Hashem… He turns it in whatever way He wills.

I hope that I have not offended anyone. It is not my intention. My intention is merely to obviate any Chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d’s name)  G-d forbid.

B'yedidus, (with friendship) 

Rabbi Avrohom Mordechai Alter
P.S. If you agree – please share these words to help minimize any Chillul Hashem.


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